A few weeks ago the second meeting of the newly formed British Sociological Association Medical Sociology Yorkshire Study group took place at Leeds Beckett University. The group meetings are an opportunity for researchers at all levels who are conducting, or interested in, sociological research in health, medicine, wellness and related areas to come together to share research and discuss their work. The first event was held at The University of Sheffield on 24th February 2014 and featured a plenary presentation by Mary Dixon-Woods and talks from early career researchers.

At the most recent event in Leeds Maggie Mort opened the event with her plenary on telecare. In this paper she presented an analysis of supposedly evidence-based policy on the implementation of telecare. Mort highlighted how data on telecare and telehealth have often been conflated in order to justify implementation.

Telecare has often been approached mechanistically as a “thing” which can be installed in order to fix a problem or plug a gap. In reality telecare is a network which is heavily dependent on the practical, emotional and interpretive labour of carers and call centre workers in order for it to function.

Esmee Hanna discussed her work with the Centre for Men’s Health at Leeds Beckett. She focused on the opportunities for, and challenges faced by, sociological researchers conducting research into men’s health. For instance, she showed how it can be difficult to engage men in research about their health and particularly those who are most at risk of health problems as they are so often unused to talking about problems.

Although initiatives such as Men In Sheds have had some success these only capture some men with particular interests and perhaps miss those who are most isolated. Working in an interdisciplinary area, while stimulating, can also pose challenges. While inequalities are well recognised to be a central aspect of the health picture, public health initiatives can still often be centred on Intervention at the individual level.

Natalie Wotherspoon presented work from her PhD research into the experience of diagnosis of people with chronic fatigue syndrome/ myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME). In this she showed how the diagnosis and perceived aetiology of CFS/ME has changed throughout history. In particular, how it has changed from being perceived within a framework of neurasthenia and moral panics, to something which spread like an epidemics and most recently when it has been framed like a virus.

A strong connection throughout history was highlighted between the condition and femininity through the image of the hysterical female. Contemporary manifestations, and repercussions, of these framings are currently being explored in Wotherspoon’s empirical work with people diagnosed with the condition.

Julie Ellis and Peter Bath from The University of Sheffield presented their work on the relationship between trust, sharing and empathy online amongst people with chronic illnesses. Their work straddles sociology and health informatics and explores the ways in which people interact with, and share information about their illnesses through online networks intersects with constructions and experiences of trust and empathy.

The discussion throughout the day was lively and positive with a clear desire amongst those present for the group to expand its reach and impact.

The next event will be hosted by the University of York on January 16th 2015 and will feature the following papers:


Deborah Lupton, Canberra University, Australia ‘Digital health data, big and small: some critical  sociological reflections’

Paper presentations:

John Gardner, University of York ‘The broad clinical gaze in paediatric deep brain stimulation’

Chrissy Buse, University of Leeds ‘Looking out of place: clothing and the boundaries of ‘home’ and privacy in dementia care’

Clare Jackson, University of York ‘Healthcare professionals initiating decisions in labour: A pilot conversation analytic study of data from One Born Every Minute’

Tickets can now be booked through the BSA website.